Home » Biden Delays the Implementation of a Ban on Menthol Cigarettes, Concerned of Backlash Among Voters

Biden Delays the Implementation of a Ban on Menthol Cigarettes, Concerned of Backlash Among Voters

by Richard A Reagan

The Biden administration has decided to delay the implementation of a ban on menthol cigarettes, among concerns of backlash among Black voters.

This decision sparked a wave of criticism and disappointment among public health advocates. It also coincides with a time when President Joe Biden faces significant scrutiny from various stakeholders, including civil rights activists, and the tobacco industry.

The proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, which has been under consideration for over a decade, was set back once again as the administration navigates the complex interplay of public health goals and political implications.

According to Erika Sward, Assistant Vice President of National Advocacy at the American Lung Association, “This is ultimately coming down to a political decision by the president and his senior advisers. If he is following the science and following the scientific advisers, then he will finalize these rules.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra highlighted the divisive nature of the proposed regulations, stating, “This rule has garnered historic attention and the public comment period has yielded an immense amount of feedback, including from various elements of the civil rights and criminal justice movement. It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have, and that will take significantly more time.”

The delay has been linked to concerns about alienating Black voters—an important demographic for the upcoming 2024 elections

Critics have accused the White House of succumbing to political pressure, particularly following meetings with tobacco industry lobbyists and civil rights figures.

A public health lobbyist noted the influence of these meetings: “You know, that spooked some folks, and I think it spooked the White House enough that we’re still pushing” well after the rule was supposed to be published.

The potential health benefits of banning menthol cigarettes are significant, with advocates pointing out that menthol cigarettes are disproportionately used by Black smokers—approximately 85 percent, according to federal statistics.

Public health experts argue that removing these products from the market could prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths.

However, the opposition argues that such a ban could lead to unintended consequences, including the growth of an illicit market.

This concern is echoed by groups like the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement and the nonprofit National Action Network, which suggest that a menthol ban could disproportionately criminalize minority communities.

The financial implications are also significant. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) projected that the ban could lead to a substantial loss in sales, estimating a decrease of $72,285 a year in non-tobacco sundry sales and $160,107 a year in tobacco product sales for the typical convenience store nationwide.

Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, criticized the administration’s approach, stating, “This announcement appears to confirm the basis for our lawsuit a few weeks ago on the proposed menthol cigarette ban. Public health authorities following the polling rather than the science is not a good look. It’s also a major reason why trust in our public health officials is at an all-time low.”

The Biden administration now finds itself at a crossroads, balancing the health benefits of the proposed ban against the political and economic repercussions.

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